When I was 11, my village came under attack. It was a very bad experience – I saw people dying, and some of them were children my age. Everyone just ran for their life into the bush. I couldn’t find my parents or any of my brothers or sisters, but I joined a group of other children and adults, and together we walked to Kenya, where we were put into a refugee camp in the desert. It was very dusty and windy there, but we built small houses to live in – the UN supplied poles and plastic, and we used tree branches for the rooves.
I lived in that camp for 10 years. Then, one day, one of my distant uncles offered to sponsor me to come to Australia. When I found out, I was very excited, because leaving was something that I never even dreamed about. People stay in those camps for a long time. Even now, there are still people there.
In 2005, I landed in Brisbane, and I first went to stay in Toowoomba with my uncle David. But because I wanted to find work quickly to support my family back home, I moved around Australia for a while, working in different factories.
A year later, my wife was approved to come to Australia. As a result, I moved back to Toowoomba so that we could live with family there, and I also decided to study, to try to make a better life for us. First, I did a Tertiary Preparation Course, followed by a Bachelor in Finance and Economics. It was a bit challenging in the beginning because I wasn’t familiar with how to do research or how to handle big assignments, and because I was also still working, in a meatworks, while I studied. I had to keep working, as I’m the breadwinner for nearly 30 people back in Africa – in our culture, you need to take care of your family if they don’t have anything. Still, I finished my degree in three years.
When I finished, I tried to find a job but it was really hard, because I didn’t have any experience or a network. Also, Toowoomba is small and a little conservative and because our cultures are still new to each other, there’s a kind of mistrust there. It makes it hard for all of us from South Sudan – there are a number of university graduates working at the meatworks with me because they can’t get a job in their field.
As I couldn’t find a job, I decided to do a Masters in Business Administration and Professional Accounting, which I’ve just finished. But I’m still struggling to find work in my field, even in Brisbane, and life is getting harder and harder, because I have my own children now, and I’m still supporting everyone back in Africa.
My life has its ups and downs. Even though I’m in a very nice country which has everything, sometimes I have a trauma in my mind because I saw all those dead bodies, and because there are still people being killed in my country. But I always try to feel positive in life. I really appreciate Australia bringing people like myself here.
And I’m very happy to be here – it has been a great opportunity for me, and I think chances are on the way!
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